Number Of Black Women Serving On Federal Courts On Track To Double

Newly confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, right, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, are sworn in during their Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images

The number of Black women serving on federal appeals courts is on track to double under President Joe Biden. Earlier this year, Biden announced his first round of judicial nominees, which included three Black women judges. Since then, the Biden administration has released three more rounds of judicial nominees, marking one of the most diverse pools of nominees in years.

If all of Biden’s nominees are confirmed, the number of Black women serving on federal courts would rise from four out of 170 to seven.  

Last week, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the US Court of Appeals of the DC Circuit, replacing US Attorney General Merrick Garland. Nominees Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, Tiffany Cunningham, and Eunice Lee are also on track to confirmation.

Biden has also nominated Angel Kelley, Karen Williams, and Lydia Kay Griggsby to serve as District Court judges. Griggsby was confirmed to the US District Court in Maryland on June 16 in a 59-39 vote

According to The Washington Post, within the first four months of his presidency, Biden has nominated more people of color to the judiciary than Donald Trump ever did in his four years as president. The representation of women on the benches of federal courts, however, is still low across all races. 

“I’m not talking about a one-to-one ratio, but we need not only racial, ethnic and gender diversity, but also experiential diversity,” Judge Bernice B. Donald of the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit told The Post. In 1988, Donald became the first Black woman to be a bankruptcy judge.

An analysis by the outlet shows that, compared to making up 7.4% of the US population, Black women only make up 4.8% of active federal judges. Black men make up 6.8% of the population, while 7.9% of active federal judges are Black men. White men are overrepresented on federal judge benches, 51% despite making up 38.5% of the US population. White women make up 39.2% of the US population and are 21% of active federal judges, The Post found. 

Efforts to increase diversity and representation among judges matters, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley told the outlet, for building trust. "It really does impart a sense a trust and confidence when the judiciary makeup is reflective of the demographics of the state," Beasley, now a senatorial candidate in North Carolina, said.

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